When the thermostats tick toward freezing and the hot chocolate mugs come out, it’s the perfect time to get together with your book club! Spark up the fireplace for your next group meeting, and gather around to choose from a few of our favorite books to read this time of year, along with intriguing novels of the season. From lush Gothic settings to the soaring backdrop of historical Europe, Book Club Favorites has rounded up the best book club picks for the winter.
10 Winter Book Club Picks to Discuss Over Hot Cocoa
Filled with family secrets and conflicting emotions, LONE WOLF may be as cold as its icy winter setting. When Luke Warren suffers from brain damage after a car crash, his children, Edward and Cara, who are estranged, must come together and make a fateful decision. But first, they each reveal to the reader what happened to break apart their family, and how Luke came to form such a close bond with a wolf pack. With its chilly locale, wolf lore, and a strong focus on family, LONE WOLF is perfect for this season!
A life hanging in the balance…a family torn apart. The #1 internationally bestselling author Jodi Picoult tells an unforgettable story about family secrets, love, and letting go.
On an icy winter night, a terrible accident forces a family divided to come together and make a fateful decision. Cara, once protected by her father, Luke, is tormented by a secret that nobody knows. Her brother, Edward, has secrets of his own. He has kept them hidden, but now they may come to light, and if they do, Cara will be devastated. Their mother, Georgie, was never able to compete with her ex-husband’s obsessions, and now, his fate hangs in the balance and in the hands of her children. With conflicting motivations and emotions, what will this family decide? And will they be able to live with that decision, after the truth has been revealed? What happens when the hope that should sustain a family is the very thing tearing it apart?
Book Club Favorites will be kicking off 2022 with one of the books everyone will be talking about. THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS is an electrifying debut by Jessamine Chan. Frida had a “very bad day,” leading the state to question her ability to mother. Faced with the possibility of losing her toddler daughter Harriet, Frida must redeem herself. She is sent to The School for Good Mothers, a place where bad mothers learn to be good. This page-turning dystopic novel from a fresh new voice asks poignant questions about motherhood, race, and ethics. Join Book Club Favorites in reading the buzzworthy THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS all January long. RSVP here!
In this taut and explosive debut novel, one lapse in judgement lands a young mother in a government reform program where custody of her child hangs in the balance.
Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.
Until Frida has a very bad day.
The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.
Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.
A searing page-turner that is also a transgressive novel of ideas about the perils of “perfect” upper-middle class parenting; the violence enacted upon women by both the state and, at times, one another; the systems that separate families; and the boundlessness of love, The School for Good Mothers introduces, in Frida, an everywoman for the ages. Using dark wit to explore the pains and joys of the deepest ties that bind us, Chan has written a modern literary classic.
In ONE NIGHT TWO SOULS WENT WALKING, a young interfaith chaplain, who soothes hospital patients’ qualms about their souls, discovers a new companion: a dog who may or may not be a ghost. On that same night while she makes her rounds, she finds that the stories of the sick have provided unexpected healing for her own personal heartbreak. Whether you’re pursuing personal introspection this winter as a New Year’s resolution or visiting your own ghost of a Christmas past, Ellen Cooney’s exploration of the human experience will very likely resonate with you.
Elizabeth Macneal and 1800s England is back with CIRCUS OF WONDERS. Nell, a scared young “wonder,” is sold to the ringmaster as a “leopard girl” because of the birthmarks that cover her body. It doesn’t take long before Nell rises to fame and, with her, the entire Circus of Wonders. In the spotlight, loyalty is tested and Nell must fight for her place in the world. This novel is a stunning exploration of celebrity, power, and belonging. Don’t miss Book Club Favorites’ live event with a discussion about this book in February!
From the #1 internationally bestselling author of the “lush, evocative Gothic” (The New York Times Book Review) The Doll Factory comes an atmospheric and spectacular novel where one woman’s life is transformed by the arrival of a Victorian circus of wonders.
Step up, step up! In 1860s England, circus mania is sweeping the nation. Crowds jostle for a glimpse of the lion-tamers, the dazzling trapeze artists and, most thrilling of all, the so-called “human wonders.”
When Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders pitches its tent in a poor coastal town, the life of one young girl changes forever. Sold to the ringmaster as a “leopard girl” because of the birthmarks that cover her body, Nell is utterly devastated. But as she grows close to the other performers, she finds herself enchanted by the glittering freedom of the circus, and by her own role as the Queen of the Moon and Stars.
Before long, Nell’s fame spreads across the world—and with it, a chance for Jasper Jupiter to grow his own name and fortune. But what happens when her fame begins to eclipse his own, when even Jasper’s loyal brother Toby becomes captivated by Nell? No longer the quiet flower-picker, Nell knows her own place in the world, and she will fight for it.
A gorgeously wrought exploration of celebrity, power, and belonging, this is a historical novel unlike any other, with an unforgettable heroine at its heart.
While you wait for CIRCUS OF WONDERS to come out towards the end of winter, you can read Macneal’s previous book! THE DOLL FACTORY is an exquisite piece of literary fiction, packed with dark Gothic elements. It’s 1850s London, and when aspiring artist Iris is asked to model for the very talented Pre-Raphaelite painter Louis Frost, she doesn’t realize that her world is about to completely transform. But there’s an evil stalker waiting and watching in the background, and as the days go by, his obsession grows hungrier. Your book club is bound to zip through this lush and compelling novel—and you’ll be glad you do!
The #1 international bestseller and The New York Times Editor’s Choice
“As lush as the novels of Kate Morton and Diane Setterfield, as exciting as The Alienist and Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost, this exquisite literary thriller will intrigue book clubs and rivet fans of historical fiction.” —A.J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window
“A lush, evocative Gothic.” —The New York Times Book Review
“This terrifically exciting novel will jolt, thrill, and bewitch readers.” —Booklist, starred review
Obsession is an art.
In this “sharp, scary, gorgeously evocative tale of love, art, and obsession” (Paula Hawkins, bestselling author of The Girl on the Train), a beautiful young woman aspires to be an artist, while a man’s dark obsession may destroy her world forever.
Obsession is an art.
In 1850s London, the Great Exhibition is being erected in Hyde Park and, among the crowd watching the dazzling spectacle, two people meet by happenstance. For Iris, an arrestingly attractive aspiring artist, it is a brief and forgettable moment. But for Silas, a curiosity collector enchanted by all things strange and beautiful, the meeting marks a new beginning.
When Iris is asked to model for Pre-Raphaelite artist Louis Frost, she agrees on the condition that he will also teach her to paint. Suddenly, her world begins to expand beyond her wildest dreams—but she has no idea that evil is waiting in the shadows. Silas has only thought of one thing since that chance meeting, and his obsession is darkening by the day.
“A lush, evocative Gothic” (The New York Times Book Review) that is “a perfect blend of froth and substance” (The Washington Post), The Doll Factory will haunt you long after you finish it and is perfect for fans of The Alienist, Drood, and Fingersmith.
When quiet winter nights become too slow, a thriller like GIRL IN SNOW can pick up the pace. The murder of beloved high schooler Lucinda Hayes deeply impacts the lives of three characters: the boy who was obsessively in love with her; the girl who wanted to be her out of jealousy, and the detective assigned to her case who is haunted by his emotional obligations toward the two suspects in her murder. Exploring the lines between love and obsession, and truth and memory, GIRL IN SNOW is a mystery that makes any night spent indoors exciting.
“A perfectly paced and tautly plotted thriller…and an incredibly accomplished debut” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Girl on the Train and Into the Water), about a beloved high schooler found murdered in her sleepy Colorado suburb and the secret lives of three people connected to her.
How can you love someone who’s done something horribly, horribly wrong? When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her community is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. “A sensational debut—great characters, mysteries within mysteries, and page-turning pace. Highly recommended” (Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Reacher novels). Hailed as “Gillian Flynn of 2017” (Yahoo! Style), compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow is “engagingly told… its endearing characters’ struggles linger in memory after this affecting work is done” (The Wall Street Journal).
Hopes, dreams, and an ice rink—BEARTOWN takes you to a small-town high school and the friendships formed on the junior ice hockey team. Unfortunately, the highly anticipated national semi-finals take a wrong turn when an act of violence at the match leaves a young girl traumatized and the whole town in chaos. It’s a story about loyalty, disappointment, and how our decisions come to define us—and, in its out-and-out empathy, allows for the warmth of hope to penetrate through the ice.
THE PARIS LIBRARY is an ode to books and libraries everywhere. In this dual timeline historical fiction novel, Odile, an ambitious young librarian at the American Library in Paris in 1939, joins the ranks of the French Resistance. Flash-forward to Montana, in 1983, where a lonely teenager named Lily is intrigued by her mysterious old neighbor’s past. Your club will love unraveling the dark secrets that connect these two smart and courageous characters.
Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife.
Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.
Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.
A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.
Wintertime is for celebrating family, which happens to be the central theme of THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA—a novel that alternates between the namesake matriarch’s past and her descendants’ present. When the Montoyas attend her funeral, they expect to collect both their inheritance and answers to Orquídea’s secrets, but instead they leave with more questions than they had imagined. Years later, her gifts have manifested into different blessings and powers for her family, who need to use them to save her bloodline. This tale about the magic of love makes you appreciate spending time with your family even more this holiday season.
Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.
Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.
THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS by Kristin Harmel tells a tale of a powerful female strategically working in defense against the Nazis during WWII. Inspired by a true story of survival, this novel begins with a young woman alone in the wilderness after her kidnapper/caretaker dies. In her solitude, she learns the secrets of the wilderness, and survives all on her own until she happens upon a pack of Jews fleeing the Nazis, who could desperately use her help. Powered with adventure, betrayal, and suspense, this novel is perfect for clubs that loved WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING.
The New York Times bestselling author of the “heart-stopping tale of survival and heroism” (People) The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel from the #1 internationally bestselling author whose writing has been hailed as “sweeping and magnificent” (Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author), “immersive and evocative” (Publishers Weekly), and “gripping” (Tampa Bay Times).
Photo credit: iStock / Charl Folscher